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Robert Burns Lives!
G. Ross Roy


Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Email: jurascot@earthlink.net

The global Burns community has lost one of its most cherished and honored members. The words from Patrick Scott’s email on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:42 AM were not unexpected but still left much sadness in my heart: “Ross died about 1 am this morning, peacefully.” Below is the family obituary, and a more personal tribute will follow in the near future. (FRS: 2.20.13)


G. Ross Roy

G. Ross Roy, husband of Lucie C. Roy, noted Scottish literature scholar, and Distinguished Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at the University of South Carolina, died  Tuesday, February 19, 2013, aged 88, peacefully, at home.

George Ross Roy was born August 20, 1924, only son of Archibald Carlyle and Georgina Simpson Roy of Montreal. His college education was interrupted by World War II, when he was commissioned as a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving with the RAF from bases in Britain, Africa, and India.  He earned his BA from Sir George Williams University, his maitrise from the University of Strasbourg, an MA and PhD from the University of Montreal, and a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris. 

Following his marriage to Lucie in 1954, he taught at the Royal Military College of Canada, the University of Alabama, the University of Montreal, and Texas Tech University, before moving to USC in 1965 as professor of English and comparative literature.  He was visiting professor at the University of Metz, and honorary professor of Scottish literature at the University of Glasgow.

Of Scottish descent on both sides of his family, he was introduced to the poetry of Robert Burns as a boy by his grandfather, W. Ormiston Roy, a noted collector.  After earlier scholarship on Canadian poetry, Whitman, and comparative literature, he concentrated on Scottish literature, especially Burns.   As well as writing hundreds of articles and reviews, he edited Burns’s Letters in two volumes (Oxford University Press, 1985) and Burns’s Merry Muses (USC Press, 1999).

In 1963, he founded the first refereed scholarly journal in the field, Studies in Scottish Literature, which he had edited with his wife’s help for almost 50 years.  In 2012, he donated copyright in the journal to USC Libraries, ensuring its continuance.

In 1988, he transferred his Robert Burns collection, and other Scottish collections, to the University of South Carolina, serving as honorary curator, donating additional materials each year since the original gift (including in 2008 a notable collection of Burns manuscripts), directing or codirecting a series of  international Scottish conferences at USC, and establishing with his wife the W. Ormiston Roy Memorial Fellowship to promote the collection’s use.  In 2010, friends named a room  in Hollings Library in his honor, featuring items from the collection.

Ross Roy’s own  achievements and his role in establishing Scottish literature as an academic field were  recognized by honorary doctorates from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow; honorary vice-presidency of the Robert Burns World Federation; life membership in two noted Burns clubs, in Greenock and Atlanta;  lifetime achievement awards from the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society, the Scottish Heritage Symposium (St. Andrew’s College), and the Saltire Society; establishment in Scotland of an annual G. Ross Roy Medal for Scottish Literature; publication of a festschrift in his honor, Robert Burns & Friends (2012); the USC Education Foundation research award; and the Order of the Palmetto.

Most of all Ross will be remembered as friend.  He mentored  several generations of Scottish literature scholars, and he shared his knowledge equally with non-academic Burnsians.  He and Lucie welcomed countless visitors to Columbia and to their home.  He traveled frequently to Scotland and Europe to research, lecture, and hunt our rare books, most recently in May 2012.

He is survived by his wife Lucie, his sister-in-law Marie Madeleine Jehl of Strasbourg, France, and several nieces and nephews, including Alex Gillon of Oregon, Kenneth Thorpe of Toronto.  He was predeceased by his daughter Dr. Madeleine C. Roy and his three sisters, Mary Joan Gillon, Anne Thorpe, and Barbara Dallinger.

The family is grateful to Dr. Ted Golay, Marshall Lunsford, and the caregivers from Senior Matters .  They were especially compasionate and helpful to Ross.

Funeral arrangements will be private, but there will be a memorial gathering later at the University.  Memorial donations may be made to the  G. Ross Roy & Lucie C. Roy Scottish Literature Endowment, USC Educational Foundation, 1600 Hampton St., Columbia SC 29208.


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